The third boardwalk before Cape Tribulation provides a feast of palm fans in all their stages. It passes through mangroves, rainforest and freshwater swamp. I pass a tree caged in the roots of a strangler fig; a flower spilling itself onto leaves and the ground; swathes of fibre that looks like human hair; more irresistible mangrove buttresses; splotched trunks; and strange leaves and fruit.
For Rosemary and her mother, who once walked through Daintree mangroves together
The road to Cape Tribulation is punctuated by boardwalks that penetrate the Daintree. The Marrja one is billed as botanical, which of course draws my particular attention. It's one of the few places where you can find plants representing all stages of the evolution of land plants over the last 400 million years, including cycads that cohabited with dinosaurs. Some of the species tucked away here are very localised: some such as the ribbonwood, suddenly reappeared from presumed extinction, rediscovered when they poisoned cattle in the 1970s.
The walk begins in rainforest country, beloved, but familiar. Or so I think till I see the heavy wooden tracery of twisty trunk, or zebra stripes of shadow, or fan palms, beautiful in all their stages.
Then I move amongst the mangroves: perfectly strange territory. I'm in a mangrove forest, a place such as I've never seen before: buttresses, reflections, spiracles, basket ferns, like something from a fairytale. I ramble, enchanted, every place I look spectacular.
If you've had a surfeit of rainforest, palms, leaves and buttresses, read no further. I don't expect everyone to share my excesses!
After a couple of nights in Mossman, I head north towards Cape Tribulation, named so by Captain Cook “because there began all our troubles” that culminated when the Endeavour ran aground on a reef. I breeze across the Daintrree River ferry, and enter serious cassowary country. The road is designated for sightseeing and the low speed limits suit me perfectly. I pootle along under arching trees, keeping a hopeful eye open for a cassowary. The lookout shows me an expanse of coastline and waterways and I turn off past the Discovery Centre to the Jindalba boardwalk in Kuku Yalanji country.
I'm early, and the only car there is the ranger's car. Forest sounds are swallowed up in the wail of a leaf blower. A leafblower? In the forest? The young woman wielding it tells me it's a public safety issue. Damp and rotting leaves make the boardwalk slippery. It still seems incongruous, like a butterfly behind bars, and I'm certain she hasn't blown the whole boardwalk, which winds its way through all the pleasures of the rainforest, beginning with a spectacular blaze of red. The boardwalk makes way for saplings, probably not allowing them quite enough room to grow, and I'm amongst the irresistible elegance of buttresses, the occasional splat of water from high in the canopy, a flurry of creamy fungi, splotched tree trunks, an abundance of leaf shape, and a rushing creek.